Bulls' LaVine making the all-star decision easy
Zach Lavine seems to have taken all the local drama out of the all-star reserve announcement.
The Bulls' top scorer has been on an amazing tear, not only with point production, but shooting accuracy. At this point, his first all-star selection appears to be a done deal. We'll find out later this week.
"He has played at an incredibly high level," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said after LaVine scored 38 points in Saturday's 122-114 win over Sacramento. "Efficiently, consistently, and I've loved being around him every single day. Besides all the all-star stuff, he's a great guy and I appreciate everything he has done."
Over the last eight games, LaVine has averaged 35.1 points, while shooting 54.7 percent overall and 51.5 percent from 3-point range. He's made an average of 4.3 baskets from 3-point range during this run, and was already averaging career-highs in rebounds (5.4) and assists (5.1).
Overall this season, LaVine is the league's seventh-leading scorer at 28.9 points per game.
"I'm just going out there playing, man," LaVine said. "I feel like I've worked on my game each year. Worked on things I've done well and worked on things I haven't done as much. I think hard work contributes to everything."
LaVine has managed to score efficiently even while getting the bulk of attention from opposing defenses. It's become routine for teams to aggressively trap LaVine off screens to try to get the ball out of his hands. Teammate Wendell Carter Jr. acknowledged that fact after Saturday's game.
"Zach makes it kind of easy for all of us," Carter said. "He draws so much attention, especially in pick and rolls, especially late in games, when he's been on a tear the whole game. They tend to go and blitz him. I love playing with him."
An added bonus is the Bulls have gone 5-3 during this stretch. Learning how to win has been a long journey for LaVine, ever since he was drafted by Minnesota in 2013, then traded to the rebuilding Bulls.
The Bulls have six games left before the NBA's midseason break. They seem to be in position to contend for one of the top eight spots in the Eastern Conference in the second half.
"We're in the hunt," LaVine said. "It's still a learning season. There's a lot of things we have to do a lot better. But being in the hunt and being competitive has been extremely fulfilling for me."
Coaches will vote for the seven reserves from their respective conferences. The results will be announced Tuesday on TNT.
LaVine was disappointed he wasn't an all-star last year when the game was in Chicago. But he went about it the right way and has improved significantly in most every category this season, including defense.
"It would mean a lot," LaVine said of an all-star nod. "You just want to be recognized. I feel I've played at an all-star level the last couple of years. I don't think there are people who have had better seasons than me over the last couple years in the Eastern Conference.
"But it comes down to winning. You have to show that. I'm glad that we're in the hunt. It would be very gratifying, especially for my family and the hard work I put in. But I'm not going to let it make or break my year."
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls
LaVine leaps to new levelHere are Zach LaVine's scoring numbers in his last eight games:
Opp FGM/A Pts
Sac 15-20 38
at Phi 9-28 30
Det 14-22 37
at Ind 11-25 30
LAC 11-21 26
NO 17-25 46
Was 12-26 35
at Orl 16-25 39